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Understanding Suspended Access Equipment – What Does This Term Cover?

An amendment to O. Reg. 213/91 – Construction Projects came into force January 1, 2017 that increases the responsibilities of employers whose workers use suspended access equipment (SAE) in Ontario. Ontario Regulation 242/16 amended O. Reg. 213/91 and redefined some common terms.

The term ‘suspended access equipment’ is not clearly defined in the regulations or the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). It may be confusing what is covered under this category of equipment.

Suspended access equipment generally refers to one or more work platforms or a seating surface suspended by wire ropes from an overhead fixed support (e.g. roof anchors) that can be lowered or raised along the facade of a building or structure by hoisting devices. Swing stages and boatswain’s chairs are examples of suspended access equipment.

Related Definitions provided in the Construction Project Regulation (O. Reg. 213/91)

Work platform means a built or manufactured work surface that, as the context requires, is intended to be used as or is in use as the work area of a suspended work platform system, but does not include a boatswain’s chair (s. 136.1).

Suspended work platform system means an access system comprising one or more overhead fixed supports, one or more suspension lines, hoisting devices, if any, and one or more work platforms that can be moved vertically, but it does not include a boatswain’s chair or a multi-point suspended work platform (subsection 1(1)).

The layperson typically refers to the suspended work platform system as a ‘swing stage’.

Multi-point suspended work platform means a suspended work platform more than 750 millimetres in width or a system of suspended work platforms in which any one platform is more than 750 millimetres in width that is supported from an overhead fixed support system by at least three primary load-carrying means of suspension to maintain the stability of the work platform or system of work platforms (s. 125; O. Reg. 242/16).

Suspended work platform module means “suspended work platforms” and “work platforms,” respectively, that are modular in nature and are not constructed as one singular continuous structure (although not defined, there are multiple references to these two terms in sections 137 to 142.06).

Competent Worker means a worker who,

(a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance;
(b) is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and
(c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.

According to the recent changes, “an employer shall designate a competent worker to be responsible for the installation and inspection of a suspended work platform system or boatswain’s chair before it is put into service for the first time. The employer shall ensure that the competent worker successfully completes a training program.”

‘Swing stage’ training must take place…”before the competent worker installs or inspects the installation of a suspended work platform or boatswain’s chair for the first time, as often as is necessary, but at least every three years, after the worker installs or inspects the installation of a suspended work platform or boatswain’s chair for the first time.” (s. 138.1 (1)-(3))

Other Definitions and Common Names for Suspended Access Equipment

Swing Stage is a common name for a suspended work platform system.

Boatswain’s chair (aka bosun’s chair) is a device used to suspend a person from a rope to perform work aloft. Originally just a short plank or swath of heavy canvas, many modern boatswain’s chairs incorporate safety devices similar to those found in rock climbing harnesses.

Scaffolding is a temporary structure on the outside of a building, usually made of wooden planks and metal poles, used by workers while building, repairing, or cleaning buildings. O. Reg. 242/16 changes the wording ‘scaffolding’ and ‘scaffold’ to ‘work platform’ in a number of applications.

Multi-point suspended scaffold is the previous name for a multi-point suspended work platform (name changed by amendment O. Reg. 242/16).

Rigger is a person that uses hoists and pulleys. Industry extends the term, however, to define anyone engaged in the lifting, moving and transporting, positioning, pulling and securing of heavy equipment, machines and oversized loads.

Within the new legislation (O. Reg. 242/16) there is no reference to the term Rigger. Today, the legislation refers to the competent worker performing such work previously defined in the role of a Rigger, as an Installer. Nonetheless, with legislation so new, we often continue to refer to these workers as Riggers.

Regardless of which terminology is being used, anyone performing work on a swing stage must be competent in the use of it and be able to perform an inspection of the equipment. Installers or Riggers are required to have additional training beyond the use and inspection of the equipment. This includes pre-requisite training in working at heights, WHMIS, and worker health and safety awareness.

Act First Safety provides these pre-requisite training programs, as well as the training required to set up, operate, inspect and install suspended work platform systems (SWPS) safely. Our training sessions are designed as building blocks to support the SWPS training, ensuring there are no gaps in learning objectives. Participants receive the complete training they need to meet Ontario’s legislated requirements under O. Reg 242/16 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA).

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